Tart cherries can decrease inflammation. The primary antioxidant action of anthocyanins is their donation of electrons or hydrogen atoms to free radicals, which increase during eccentric contractions and aerobic exercise, and worsen the damage of muscle cells (Mastaloudis, Morrow, Hopkins, Devaraj, & Traber, 2004). This makes anthocyanins strong scavengers of free radicals.
In 2010 Howatson et al. explored tart cherry juice and its effect on accelerating recovery and reducing muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress using a placebo-controlled study. Runners from the London marathon drank either tarty cherry juice or placebo for five days before, during and two days following the marathon.
SOME OF THE MEASURES TAKEN BEFORE, IMMEDIATELY AFTER AND TWO DAYS AFTER THE MARATHON INCLUDED:
EIMD: knee-extension strength, muscle soreness, creatine kinase (CK)
Inflammation: interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP)
Oxidative Status: total antioxidant status
THE RESULTS FOR TART CHERRY DRINKERS COMPARED TO PLACEBO:
Strength recovered quickest
No difference in biomarkers of damage—a trend toward decreased CK values Peak CK values 24 h post-exercise was 21% lower for cherry juice vs. placebo (2227 IU/L vs. 2814 IU/L)
Inflammatory markers IL-6 and CRP significantly reduced IL-6 post-race was 41.8 pg/mL for tart cherry and 82.1 pg/mL for placebo
CRP lower at 24 h and 48 h for tart cherry drinkers
Total antioxidant capacity increased
Researchers concluded that tart cherry juice aids recovery of muscle function following strenuous exercise due its increase in total antioxidative capacity and reduction of inflammation. The pre-exercise dosage strategy of five days at two times per day decreased inflammation and oxidative stress and accelerated recovery of muscle strength.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? EIMD yields inflammation, strength loss, oxidative stress and pain. Reducing these effects is critical to optimal recovery so that athletes are not hindered from returning to training or competing. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries are beneficial to athletes wanting to avoid the symptoms of EIMD without relying on alternative therapies, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. Athletes employ different therapies to reduce EIMD. Yet, a dietary approach that takes advantage of nutrients in food to alleviate pain is ideal. The studies demonstrate tart cherry intake should be taken in the days leading up to strenuous event. Tart cherry in BeetBoost provides a simple, low-cost way to protect against EIMD and naturally enhance recovery.
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